When Paris Saint-Germain FC's Qatari owners took charge in summer 2011 and announced they wanted to win the UEFA Champions League within five years, there may have been more than one or two knowing looks and schoolboy sniggers. It is not the first time a takeover has provoked ambitious declarations, but after PSG's quarter-final exit to FC Barcelona, only the most sceptical would still doubt they could come true.
"We've proved that this team is not a joke and we hope to win trophies soon," Zlatan Ibrahimović said following the 1-1 second-leg draw in Spain. Carlo Ancelotti's squad would have been thought of more seriously still had they taken a quartet of first-half scoring opportunities or a chance that fell to Javier Pastore shortly after the Argentinian international had given the visitors the lead on the night, and in the tie, in the 50th minute.
Barcelona owe their sixth successive semi-final appearance in this competition as much to PSG's prolifigacy as to Lionel Messi, whose emergence from the bench in the second half tipped the balance back the Blaugrana's way.
To come so close to reaching the last four is heartbreaking, but also heartwarming. Do not forget, PSG in their current guise are less than two years old and Ancelotti has been in charge for little more than 12 months. The Italian made the point that his team, for all their big names, are relatively inexperienced at this level – the stats back him up.
Five of his starting XI in Catalonia were in their maiden UEFA Champions League season, while a further two – Ezequiel Lavezzi and Thiago Silva – have made under 30 appearances in the competition. Yet, despite the giddying steepness of the learning curve the squad faced, they lost only one of their ten matches, a 1-0 defeat by FC Porto, this term.
After the final whistle on Wednesday, Pastore insisted "next season will be better", and it is hard to see how PSG cannot build on what they have achieved this campaign. In addition to the know-how garnered, Ancelotti will – if the last four transfer windows are anything to go by – see further quality and, perhaps crucially, experienced elements added to his roster ahead of next term's group stage.
Of course, the luck of the draw plays its part, as do the other uncontrollable variables of football, but it is hard to imagine that when Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the PSG club president, reiterated his 'five-year plan' inside the Camp Nou, anyone could be seen smirking.
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